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Nashville Predators Mid-Season Review: Defense

Yesterday we looked at the goalies, and now it's time for the defense corps, which of course the Nashville Predators are known for throughout the league. How have the guys done during the 1st half of this 2010-11 NHL Regular Season, and what does that tell us about what's to come the rest of the way?

Follow after the jump for all the details and grades!

The Minnesota Wild visit Smashville tomorrow, and the Chicago Blackhawks come in on Saturday. Save a few bucks and use our discount code for cheap Nashville Predators tickets to these, or any other home game.

As always, we're going to leverage a lot of numbers here. I'll present the basic stats here, and the more complicated Behind The Net statistics at the bottom. Grades are relative to the role and expectations for each player.

 Player Games Goals Assists Points +/- PIM Shots Shoot % Blocked Shots ATOI
 Shea Weber 41 7 17 24 +4 34 135 5.2 63 24:45
 Ryan Suter 30 1 18 19 +15 18 46 2.2 36 24:30
 Cody Franson 39 5 9 14 +3 14 84 6.0 23 14:54
 Kevin Klein 40 2 8 10 +6 15 53 3.8 85 21:33
 Francis Bouillon 40 1 8 9 -1 27 45 2.2 47 20:35
 Shane O`Brien 41 2 5 7 -8 39 26 7.7 33 16:59
 Alexander Sulzer 14 0 0 0 -6 6 14 0.0 20 18:13

Francis Bouillon

#51 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Oct 17, 1975

We all know what The Cube's job is on this team: anchor one of supporting D pairs and provide stay-at-home, yet physical defense. He generally plays against decent opposition, while being supported by 3rd or 4th line forwards, so the negative tilt in Shots For & Against numbers is somewhat understandable, but it's still pretty severe (the Preds are outshot 29.3 to 24.9 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 while he's on the ice). It's surprising that he doesn't get more PK time, as he does fairly well there, but that could be due to his size, and relatively limited ability to move defenders from the front of the net. During Ryan Suter's injury absence he also saw more work on the power play, but that's not really his strong suit.

His tireless work effort led to him wearing an "A" at times, and has endeared him to fans. Just don't drop the gloves again, OK?

Grade: B

Cody Franson

#4 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Aug 08, 1987

Cody is the beneficiary of Barry Trotz's ability to work matchups. At even strength, he generally gets to play against lesser opponents, and to his credit, he takes advantage of those opportunities. He piles up the points at the fastest pace in 5-on-5 among Nashville defenders, but interestingly, that success doesn't translate to the power play, where the Preds are (as always) in need of help.

Until he takes things up another level defensively, it's hard to see him getting significantly more ice time in the foreseeable future. At 23 years of age, however, there should still be some upside to Franson's development.

Grade: B+

Kevin Klein

#8 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Dec 13, 1984

He takes on perhaps the toughest burden on the Predators' blueline: measurements of both the Quality of Competition and the Quality of his Teammates speak to that. To his credit, he manages that workload while taking the fewest penalties among the group, and has kept his basic Plus/Minus above water. As I wrote a few weeks ago, though, that's largely due to an unusually-high team shooting percentage while he's on the ice. He's been the beneficiary of "the breaks" so far, and is likely to see things dry up as the season continues. The overall Shots For & Against figures are pretty terrifying during his ice time, and sooner or later, that burns you.

In addition to the tough sledding in 5-on-5, Klein also picks up the most PK duty, and deserves full credit for that unit's success this season.

What you don't hear of here is offensive results. While Klein provides occasional glimpses of skill at creating plays, they aren't a part of his game-by-game contributions.

Grade: B

Shane O`Brien

#55 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Aug 09, 1983

His job is mainly to provide the 5-on-5 safety blanket for Cody Franson, and log primary duty on the penalty kill. He's done a fairly good job at both, while showing outstanding discipline along the way (he's recording the fewest penalty minutes per game of his NHL career this season). That Goals Against figure you see in the PK table screams "fluke", but even a more deserving figure twice that high would still be OK.

All in all, that trade for Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson looks better every day, doesn't it?

Grade: A-

Alexander Sulzer

#52 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



May 30, 1984

Hasn't been able to work his way into the lineup short of injury to one of the Top Six, but has done decent work when given the chance.

Grade: C-

Ryan Suter

#20 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Jan 21, 1985

When he went down with a "lower body injury" in an early game against Calgary, hearts sunk around Nashville, and for good reason. While he was out of the lineup, the Preds often looked lost in their own end and struggled to get things moving up-ice. The best example of his ability to tilt the game in the right direction is that "Relative Corsi" number below. It basically says that his presence on the ice has led to an improvement in the Total Shots For & Against of 13.4 per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, an absolutely huge shift.

The power play has been much more dynamic during his ice time as well, firing over a shot per minute on net. Perhaps the only downside to Suter's results so far occur on the penalty kill, but even those numbers aren't horrible.

In sum, he gets a lot of "power vs. power" work but keeps the balance of the game in Nashville's favor, and that's a tremendous resource to have on any NHL team. Just one thing, though, Ryan - could you shoot the puck a bit more?

Grade: A-

Shea Weber

#6 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators



Aug 14, 1985

Shea's had a lot on his plate this season. As the new captain, he's expected to set a tone in the locker room and lead the way on the ice. Then, of course, his defense partner Suter missed a few weeks of action and things got extra challenging, real quick. While some hoped that he'd muscle himself into Norris Trophy consideration this season, that choppy start (just 2 goals through the first 22 games) put an end to those hopes for now. All the same, he's the biggest star on the Nashville stage.

Like Suter, he plays against the best opponents, and consistently drives positive results. He's blasting the puck with aplomb, remains a primary weapon on the power play, and is absolutely dominating on the penalty kill. The only concern with Shea is that after an outstandingly disciplined job last season, he's back to taking roughly a minor penalty every other game.

Grade: B+

5-on-5 Data (from Behind The Net)

 Player ATOI G/60 Ast/60 +/- Rating Shots For ON/60 SAON/60 Rel. Corsi On-Ice Sht % On-Ice Sv % PDO Corsi QoC Corsi Rel QoT PTAKE/60
 Ryan Suter 17.99 0.11 0.66 +1.4 32.4 26.3 +13.4 8.9 949 1039 +0.952 +2.089 0.6
 Shea Weber 17.78 0.33 0.91 +0.3 29.6 27.9 +8.2 8.9 924 1012 +1.334 +2.217 1.0
 Kevin Klein 17.27 0.17 0.61 +0.4 26.2 32.3 -14.2 10.3 938 1041 +1.442 -1.384 0.3
 Francis Bouillon 17.08 0.09 0.53 -0.3 27.7 31.9 -10.8 10.1 918 1019 +0.863 -1.240 0.4
 Alexander Sulzer 14.74 0.00 0.00 +0.2 24.5 30.2 +2.5 4.8 923 971 +0.663 +1.143 0.6
 Shane O`Brien 13.72 0.11 0.53 -1.9 27.2 31.3 -3.4 4.7 925 972 +0.410 +0.195 1.2
 Cody Franson 12.29 0.50 0.88 +0.1 32.1 30.1 +8.3 6.6 946 1012 -0.222 -0.421 0.9

Power Play Data (5-on-4)

 Player ATOI G/60 Ast/60 GFON/60 GAON/60 SFON/60
 Shea Weber 3.66 0.80 1.60 5.2 0.4 52.7
 Ryan Suter 3.30 0.00 4.84 7.9 0.0 60.6
 Cody Franson 2.04 0.75 1.50 3.8 0.8 43.8
 Francis Bouillon 1.27 0.00 2.37 4.7 2.4 45.0
 Alexander Sulzer 1.22 0.00 0.00 0.0 3.5 31.7
 Kevin Klein 0.39 0.00 0.00 0.0 0.0 22.9

Penalty Killing Data (4-on-5)

 Player ATOI GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 Kevin Klein 3.13 4.79 46.9 898
 Shane O`Brien 2.73 2.68 44.5 940
 Shea Weber 2.24 4.58 41.9 891
 Ryan Suter 2.20 5.47 57.4 885
 Alexander Sulzer 1.83 4.67 39.7 882
 Francis Bouillon 1.42 5.28 50.7 896

Note: My Shots For & Against columns combine saved shots and goals from the Behind the Net tables.